Building an Ecosystem Around the Mission

Catalysts to Reinvent Higher Education

In 1997, 19 governors, throughout the west, had the foresight to disrupt education with something different—a nonprofit, online university. They founded Western Governors University to extend the benefits of higher education, especially to underserved populations. In just 22 years, WGU has a substantial footprint in all 50 states that includes more than 100,000 full-time students. With 120,000 graduates, along with corporate and educational partners that span the country, Their foresight has become the catalyst to reinvent higher education.

The Catalyst Framework

Enabling a tenfold transformative impact on how higher education is accessed, delivered, experienced, and attained to impact millions of lives requires:

  • National, even global system
  • Academic and co-curricular services and technology
  • Credentials across post-secondary continuum

NUVP Investment Pipeline

Investment Sourcing

Market mapping, initial outreach to source investment opportunities

Initial Diligence

Thorough analysis of competitive landscape, team strength, technology risk

Deep Diligence

Evaluating go-to-market, unit economics

Efficacy Assessment

Real-world testing to quantify value for students, educators, and employees

Defining student impact: Criteria that drives our fund

New U Venture Partners is committed to a double bottom line: Generate a profitable return for limited partners and effect strong social impact through a portfolio of education-obsessed businesses.

Education is the surest pathway to a better life. Catalyzing a transformative approach to education in the 21st century is key to ensuring that pathway is accessible to all. To identify investment opportunities with the most potential to drive student-centered innovation, New U Venture Partners evaluates prospective fund participants using three criteria: an emphasis on learner outcomes, a track record of going big and building to scale, and a bias toward transformative, sector-shifting innovation.

1. Emphasize Outcomes

The metrics that matter most in defining successful education outcomes are suffering nationwide. Measures of high-quality student experiences like graduation rates, retention, student debt and loan default, and career outcomes too often show that students are not getting their higher-ed money's worth. NUVP exists to advance businesses and opportunities that improve these outcomes. Fund leaders associated with WGU created the university's Responsible Borrowing Initiative (RBI), an award-winning technology-assisted program that dramatically changed the way students borrow—through a relatively simple reimagining of how the financial aid conversation is handled. Instead of borrowing as much as is offered, students are encouraged to borrow only what they need—and are given the tools and resources they need to make that judgment wisely. The result: a 40 percent decrease in average borrowing among students who take out loans. The average student debt at graduation for WGU undergraduates was around $15,000 in 2018, less than half the national average, and WGU grads' three-year cohort default rate was only 4.1 percent, compared with 10.8 percent nationwide.

2. Build to scale

NUVP leaders believe big ideas and practical innovation that can be scaled nationally, even globally, are necessary to reinvent the workforce alignment, accessibility, affordability, delivery, and experience of higher education. Like never before, 21st-century technology allows for education solutions to grow the total learner population. Outcome-driven solutions can be scaled to serve not only larger populations, but also—and perhaps especially—underserved communities. By leveraging technology indifferent to a student’s time and place, WGU is serving more than 115,000 currently enrolled students — a number that is growing by 19 percent annually — and attracted 71 percent of its students from underserved populations.

3. Bias for transformative innovation

This is not your father’s ed tech capital venture fund. The evidence of its unique nature is in the real-world, sector-shifting work NUVP leaders are already building and launching—work that is disrupting traditional education paths today at WGU.

While WGU has achieved national scale and continues its rapid growth, the university itself can only address a small fraction of the total need for higher education in the U.S. alone. Reinvigorating the promise of higher education for tens of millions will require a transformation of all aspects of postsecondary education – access, readiness, affordability, learning, student experience, workforce alignment and enablement, delivery, and funding.

Investment Themes

WGU was founded to reinvigorate the promise of higher education by leveraging technology to bring high quality, affordable education to individuals everywhere. An exponential increase in reach is required to truly transform all aspects of the paradigm of higher education: access, readiness, affordability, learning, student experience, workforce alignment, delivery, and funding. In concert with that mission, New U Venture Partners focuses on five core investment themes:

Access and Affordability

Post-secondary Readiness
Learning and Experience
Workforce Transition / Upskilling

Global Distribution and Delivery

Human Capital

Ensuring workforce relevance for a new generation of human capital is an NUVP hallmark. It begins with a commitment around the development of curriculum on competencies defined by industry employers. For example, NUVP fund leaders and advisors are already building several new products to guarantee a business focus on education-workforce relevancy:

Learner skills map: acquired skills mapped to job role requirements

Skills transcript: a transcript of skill achievement mapped to marketable, industry-informed competencies

And WGU President Scott Pulsipher was invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board to help build national momentum toward investing in our most valuable resource: the American worker.

Our Partners in Innovation

Thought partners include:

  • Strada
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Christensen Institute
  • ACE
  • Committee for Economic Development (CED)
  • National Governors Association
  • The Presidents Forum
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Lumina Foundation
  • Burning Glass
  • Entangled Solutions

Existing corporate relationships:

  • Google
  • FedEx
  • Microsoft
  • LinkedIn
  • Instructure
  • Pluralsight
  • HCA
  • Salesforce
  • AT&T
  • Dell
  • Oracle
  • Hewlett Packard